West Branch board makes cuts in teaching, classified staff

BELOIT –The West Branch school board Thursday night approved several cuts in personnel that will help the district avoid an operating deficit the next five years.

The board approved the reduction in force (RIF) of five and a half certified (teaching) and 12 classified positions for an annual savings of $400,000 in salaries and $300,000 in benefits.

The cuts in certified staff include middle school intervention specialist Mike Hart, kindergarten teacher Cory Tafe, moving high school vocational agriculture teacher Rebecca Zeisler to part time, a middle school position vacated by retirement that will not be filled and two internal transfers that will eliminate two elementary positions. The cuts in classified staff include technician Christopher Earl; educational aides Bonnie Cline, Lisa Thorn, Victoria Cosma, Holly Zion Morrow and Katelynn Dunn; two custodial, two transportation (bus driver) and one educational aide positions through attrition; and an educational aide position that will be moved to Title Funding (for at risk students).

The board acted on the recommendation of schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton, who has also recommended the elimination of an administrator and/of supervisor plus $135,000 in miscellaneous supplies.

With the cuts, the district will essentially break even in operational costs over the course of the financial five-year forecast submitted by school Treasurer David Drawl. The forecast also shows a cash balance of over $3 million in the final year.

In other business, the board granted continuing contract to art teacher Brooke Lancey Klenke, classroom teacher Toni Olgilvie and literacy coaches Barb Eisenhart and Julie Cheslik; approved supplemental contracts for the 2018-2019 school year for Kristen Tice for high school

Environmental Club advisor and Rachelle Ring for middle school Power of the Pen advisor; hired Nicholas Jackson as a middle school/high school summer school teacher for credit recovery during the 2019 summer; accepted the resignation of Mindy Steer, special services secretary, effective June 30; and accepted the retirement of custodian Grace Cobbs effective June 30.

The board also accepted donations of $1,240.13 from the West Branch Athletics Boosters for athletics, $40 from E Arthur and Delma Lora for girls track and $661 from Smith Landscaping in services for football and baseball fields; and approved of a resolution to remain a member of the E.B.C. (Eastern Buckeye Conference) for the 2019-2020 school year.

Also at the meeting, Saxton reported an internet based phone system has been installed to replace the system that crashed earlier in the school year. He said the district has been operating this year without an internal phone system, but the board has worked with insurance to get the new internet based one, which is currently operating at 90 percent.

Saxton said the district’s technology department has completed the installation within the past month, something that typically takes three to six months.

Saxton also noted that although there is an upfront cost for the new system, it will create a savings of $20,000 to $30,000 annually from the previous one and will eventually pay for itself.

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